By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The fifth county roundtable event, coordinated by the Tucker County Commission, hosted by the Mountaintop Senior Center and Thomas Mayor Matt Quattro, took place on Monday, October 22.
Doug Arbogast served as the event facilitator, keeping to the agenda and timing each speaker to keep the pace. Each member of a community organization was allotted approximately four minutes to update the other committees and public attendees as to what has been, and what is planned to be done. Prior to beginning down the list of speakers, Commission President Diane Hinkle welcomed everyone and herself, along with Commissioners Lowell Moore and Patrick Darlington, led the group in The Pledge of Allegiance.
Tucker County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) representative Steve Moore took the floor first. The main topic Moore addressed was the odor problem at the landfill. “We have always had a permit and been able to take animal carcasses and it was my opinion and the opinion of the other board members that chicken feathers are just a part of the carcass”, he said. “But, due to the amount of chicken feathers we were taking and the odor associated with it, our inspector decided we should get a permit to accept those feathers, so we’re in the process of doing that”, Moore explained. He also said that from the very beginning, it was made known that if the landfill couldn’t control the odor, they would discontinue accepting them. Moore stated that the layering of trash upon trash creates multiple odors and it is a challenge to discover what is exactly the cause of the issue, and feels the feathers are just a small part of the odor problem.
The SWA is also in the process of setting up a recycling center in conjunction with Sunrise Sanitation. “We are trying to create a state of the art facility where anyone who accepts recyclables can bring them to us, and there will be a space to sort the materials”, Moore said. There has been communication with the Rubenstein Center to provide labor for those services. Moore said this big project is just in the beginning phases and the SWA is looking forward to what is to come.
Next on the agenda was Ron Hollis with the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Hollis wanted to give everyone an update of some of the projects the refuge has been working on. “If you haven’t heard, we are in the process of creating a new administration building and also a visitor’s center that will house the West Virginia Ecological Field Office staff of probably ten up here with us”, Hollis explained. “Also an office for law enforcement officer will be there”, he added. “Right now the timeline for breaking ground is early spring”, Hollis speculated. To keep up with the status of the new building, you can reference their website at www.fws.gov/refuge/canaan_valley/
Apparently there have also been some misconceptions about the refuge cutting down all of their trees and ruining squirrel habitat. Several people have submitted comments to the refuge in this regards, in which Hollis ensured they are working with their partners to devise a response for these individuals in a timely manner. “I want to make sure we tell our story, that’s the key thing”, he said. “If we don’t tell our story properly to people and tell them why we do habitat management in these forest areas, we’re missing the boat”, Hollis assured.
Stan Beafore , superintendant with Canaan Valley State Park, began with the biggest project they are in the beginning phases of; the construction of an approximate five mile mountain bike track to IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) standards. “The track will also meet the requirements to host an NICA event, which is the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, its high school competitive mountain biking”, Beafore explained. The projected start date for this project is spring and expected to be a huge draw for Canaan Valley State Park. He continued to explain at the trail head of this course will also be an oval pump track that anything with wheels can be used with minimal pedaling required.
“The next big thing that’s going on at Canaan is the contract between the Division of National Resources and US Hotels and Resort Management Incorporated”, continued Beafore. This contract end date is in June and there are already committees in place to review the new proposals for a new contract for management of the park. The current contract is a five year term, and the goal for the next one is to be ten years in length. There will also be inclusion of literature to dictate the management fee be based off financial performance versus the current contract set at a flat fee.
Prior to concluding, Beafore expressed concern for the lack of visitors remaining in the valley past time spent in their cabins or the lodge. Crews are looking at ways to keep more population in the park by adding new attractions such as the mountain bike and pump track.
Blackwater Falls State Park Superintendant Matt Baker proceeded by educating everyone on projects over the past year and those to come. “One of the main things we’ve completed since last winter is we’ve upgraded our internet bringing fiber optic internet out to the lodge which is huge, especially for our conferences”, Baker exclaimed. Internet and television have also been added to their classic cabins as well as out to the sled run. “Hopefully by winter we will have wireless access to the sled hill”, he added.
Upcoming projects as a result of selling bonds for infrastructure include updating the cabins with HVAC and air conditioning units, renovating bathrooms and kitchens, upgrades to the lodge such as new carpeting, restroom renovations, and wall treatments, in addition to upgrades to the campground restrooms.
Kevin White, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management of Tucker County, introduced what his role is in the community. “Our main focus is emergency preparedness and awareness and mainly for the county we are a resource”, White explained. “We are the direct source of communication between your local government and your state government”, he said. White gave details about recent involvement with the flash flooding and assisting with stream clean up. Examples of their resources include communication devices, signage, an AM transmitter, which was used for Run for It, and sheltering capabilities. A recent grant purchased a ZUMRO shelter, which is like an inflatable tent hub that can have numerous wings deployed from it. “Nobody in our region, which is a ten county region, has these capabilities, so I feel quite fortunate and lucky we were the recipient of that grant”.
Tucker County 911 Director Brett Ware took the floor beginning by explaining how the 911 addressing works. “Your 911 address is based upon specific GPS coordinates of your home”, Ware explained. “It’s very important that you have four inch block house numbers on your house and street side”, he stressed as they commonly run into issues not being able to locate homes. 911 also manage road signs not provided by the state. “Your lanes, alleys, small roads that weren’t main highways back in the early days of our community, those little blue signs are the ones we will be hanging”, he said.
“We are upgrading our computer dispatch software systems in our agency”, Ware continued. “This new system will allow us to be better prepared and coordinate responses”, he said. “We have pictures of most homes in Tucker County, so the first responders will be able to pull that from the 911 center and see the house on the street”, Ware explained, “It’s all in effort to help everyone”.
Bailey Falls, director of the Tucker County Animal Shelter, started with the chief concern over the feral cat issue. A grant was utilized for trapping, spaying and neutering the cats, and then releasing them to manage the population. They are currently in the process of writing another grant to conduct another trap and release program. “The cost to spay or neuter a cat at our lowest cost is about $75, and this cost increases as we perform tests or administer medications”, Falls explained. The shelter has been involved in several fundraising adventures to help support these costs. Cats and dogs are being vaccinated immediately upon arrival at the shelter so the only reason to visit the vet is for their sterilization procedure and a rabies vaccine. Not only does this decrease veterinary costs, but it aids in prevention of spreading disease. On the project list is improvements to the dog shelter. “We are and will continue to be a no kill shelter, meaning we do not euthanize based on population”, confirmed Falls. And for the first time, there will be a full time animal control officer hired in the county.
Tucker County Development Authority representative Steve Leyh updated on the entrepreneur pitch contest that took place in June at TCHS awarded three cash prizes: $5000 to the Billy Motel to add a commercial kitchen, $3000 to Stumptown Ales for a can seamer, and $1000 to Five Rivers Campground to add an ADA bath house. “This was a collaborative effort between multiple agencies and we’re hoping to do it again next year”, Leyh commented. The Mon Forest Towns Initiative was next on his agenda to explain. The idea is to build around the forests as a recreational asset and will be utilized to encourage people to get outdoors and experience nature.
“One of the big projects we’ve been working on is the land swap to create a new boundary for the industrial park”, Leyh said. “What that does is it makes it so we don’t have to build a bridge to access industrial park land”, he explained. Along the lines of the industrial park topic, workforce housing is being looked into as it is a very common issue in the entire county. “We are partnering with Woodlands to take a look at the industrial park property, specifically seven acres, and how it might fit into affordable workforce housing “, he stated.
Tucker County Day is set for January 16, 2019. This is a collaborative effort between the Chamber of Commerce Development Authority, which is held in Charleston at the Capitol in the Culture Center. The Development Authority has moved their office to the National Science Foundation Building, adjacent from the industrial park.
Ben Herrick and Dennis Filler split time on behalf of the Planning Commission. Herrick began by updating on the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALO). The goal for this ordinance is to ensure infrastructure is available to anyone who develops a homestead and is accessible to emergency services. The authority has also revamped the building permit process to make it an easier, all in one stop to complete the required paperwork. Switching over to Filler, he said “my job is to facilitate development within the county”. He also commented briefing on SALO stating there will be a public meeting regarding the ordinance in November and aiming for it to go in effect early 2019. Filler mentioned he is also working on the beginning stages of a litter and nuisance ordinance. For more information on the Tucker County Planning Commission, you can refer to their webpage at https://tuckercountycommission.com/county-government/county-boards/planning-commission/
Brad Moore with the Cultural District Authority opened with saying “We have just come through two years of our first phase where we set up our performance agenda and carry out our agenda with a lot of help from WVU”. In that timeframe, the authority has developed an asset map, economic assets within the county, and partnered with several groups. “We are now working towards phase two of our performance agenda, and with that it will be a continuation of exactly what we’re doing now”, he explained. “This demonstrates a growth of cultural tourism”, Moore added. There has also been development of online resources including social media, brochures, and buttons. “We are the only county in West Virginia who has been designated a Cultural District Authority”, he proudly stated.
Standing in to represent the Tucker County Building Commission was Commissioner Lowell Moore. “The purpose of the building commission is to borrow money”, explained Moore. The main topic of his informative presentation was the Emergency Service Support Facility, which is set to break ground in spring 2019. This will be a multi function facility that will house EMS, provide restrooms for the boulder park and ball field, offer conference and meeting rooms equipped with satellite stations and full hook ups for the OEM trailer during emergency situations. “There have been some issues over the driveway, but we’re going to extend the driveway from forty foot to fifty foot and those pine trees will be cut and bank sloped back”, Moore explained. “That is paid for by the county commission”, he reiterated, “It has nothing to do with the EMS ordinance, it is strictly paid for by the county commission”. Roberts Construction was awarded the bid for construction of the facility in the amount of $466,500.
Mayor Matt Quattro took the floor to share they completed their big paving projects for the year by paving five streets in Thomas with more planned for next year. “The other project we’re waiting for funding for is a walking bridge from the railroad grade to our park”, explained Quattro. He is hopeful they will have the finances in order to start that project come spring. Quattro stated businesses in town seem to be doing well and the front street buildings are mostly full. He also mentioned there are a few sets of small rental units being constructed in attempt to appeal towards service workers for feasible rent to aid in the lack of housing for workers.
Parsons Mayor Dorothy Judy was present at the round table, and asked County Administrator Jason Myers to address the group. He stated the city just completed the Pulp Mill Bottom Elevation Project funded through FEMA, which elevated three homes. “We received a $200,000 grant from the National Park Service Conservation Fund, this project will provide pathway lighting at Mill Race Park”. The funds also contributed to expanding the parking area at the splash park, park wide wifi, the synthetic ice rink, and security cameras. Efforts are being made to rehabilitate the pond on the Corrick Ford Battlefield site and a new entrance is being developed into Mill Race Park. “The Kingsford sewer extension project, we have applied for money with USDA on that to extend the sewer service to Kingsford Manufacturing Company”, Myers stated. A purchase agreement was recently signed to purchase fifty five acres purposed for an industrial park, in which three businesses have already expressed interest in relocating to that location.
Myers also gave an update on the BFS taking over the former Sheetz property. “Sheetz still has claims to that property”, he explained as they are still removing the tanks. “They are hoping to open early 2019”, Myers stated. Property has also been acquired in the Pulp Mill Bottom area where an old church is being converted into a community center. The DOH awarded a grant to install a walkway around the Corricks Ford Battle site and local funds will be utilized to install fishing piers around the pond. Lastly, Myers informed the city is starting to enforce their property maintenance ordinances to get a hold on the dilapidated and abandoned building problem.
Events coordinator Tammy Michael spoke briefly about some of the events put on in the town of Parsons including Music in the Park, talent shows, the Halloween candy walk, homecoming, parades, and more. Michael extended an invitation for those residing on the mountain to join in the festivities and celebrate with the town of Parsons.
Marvin Murphy with the WV Department of Highways was the last speaker of the evening. Murphy explained the construction on Corridor H is not completely shut down; they are permitted to work on certain projects. “The summer season has not been too good construction weather”, he proclaimed. The project is active and about 35% complete now, but due to sixty five inches of rainfall, the opening date is expected to be pushed back. Murphy assured they are working through the citations and hoping to resume full progress as soon as possible.
Arbogast opened the floor for questions from the crowd before adjourning for the night. Further discussion commenced regarding the recycling facility, lack of credible employees, the need for additional housing, concerns over the mountain being shut down numerous times over the winter, and drug rehabilitation programs.
The County Round Table events are held twice a year and the location rotates around the county. These events are open to the public and are a great resource to become aware of what is going on throughout the entire county as well as offer the opportunity to express concerns you may have as a resident of our county.